Fines will be imposed for clear cases of flopping
By Marc Stein
The NBA announced to its teams this week at its annual pre-draft camp that fines will be imposed on players starting next season for clear cases of "flopping," ESPN.com has learned.
The league office has yet to determine exact fine amounts for offending flops and how fines might escalate for repeat offenders, but in-game arena observers and video reviewers will be instructed to report instances of theatrical flopping for potential punishment as part of postgame reports on officiating and other matters.
The league's pledge to crack down on flopping was conveyed to team representatives at Tuesday's competition committee meeting in Orlando.
NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson confirmed the new policy Wednesday night saying: "What was clearly expressed to the committee is that we would begin imposing fines next season for the most egregious type of flops. When players are taking a dive, for lack of a better term." Because a precise penalty system has not yet been structured, it is not yet known whether serial floppers will be subject to possible suspensions after a certain number of fines for flopping, as seen with the league's protocol on technical fouls. Players who accrue 16 technicals during the regular season are hit with a one-game suspension when they get to No. 16 -- the limit is seven technicals during the playoffs -- and receive one-game suspensions for every other technical thereafter (No. 18, 20, etc.).
Detroit's Rasheed Wallace, a player who has 15 technicals this season and has been suspended in the past for being over the limit for technicals, gave his opinion of floppers to ESPN after the Pistons' 106-102 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.
"All that bull(bleep)-*** calls they had out there. With Mike [Callahan] and Kenny [Mauer] -- you've all seen that (bleep)," Wallace said. "You saw them calls. The cats are flopping all over the floor and they're calling that (bleep). That (bleep) ain't basketball out there. It's all (bleeping) entertainment. You all should know that (bleep). It's all (bleeping) entertainment."
In other Orlando business:
• The competition committee considered changes to both the current playoff seeding format as well as the format for the draft lottery but ruled against recommending alterations to either.
Both subjects will be discussed again at the next Board of Governors meeting in October, but changes typically aren't made by team owners at those meetings without a prior recommendation from the competition committee.
After another season of great imbalance between teams in the West and East, league officials agreed in April to consider changes that could be implemented in time for next season's playoffs. But NBA commissioner David Stern said from the start that "it's unlikely anything will happen."
The current system sends the top eight teams in each conference to the postseason. That excluded No. 9 Golden State in the West in spite of the Warriors' 48-win season and forced two 55-win perennial powers -- San Antonio and Phoenix -- to meet in the first round.
The West's dominance -- and the fact that only three teams in the East (Boston, Detroit and Orlando) had a higher win total than Golden State -- led to a new round of calls for re-seeding after each round of the playoffs as seen in other major professional team sports, or even sending the teams with the best 16 records to the playoffs irrespective of conference.
But Stern has long maintained that re-seeding is "very difficult when you have the television obligations that we have" because the league's TV partners (ESPN and TNT) would then be required "to wait for every series that can affect the re-seeding to be over." The commissioner has also said that he's comfortable with the idea of a lower seed inheriting the playoff path of a higher seed if it can win a seven-game series.
There is also naturally considerable opposition from teams in the East to sending the clubs with the 16 best records to the playoffs. The current format enabled several sub-.500 teams this season -- such as Indiana, New Jersey and Chicago -- to stay in playoff contention well into April, giving them something to sell to their fan bases in spite of sub-par records and constant reminders from the media about the West's superior depth.
Making overall record its primary playoff consideration would also likely force the league to change the format of its entire regular-season schedule. West teams would have a valid complaint if the 16-team playoff field was determined strictly by record and East teams retained the advantage of playing 52 games against other East teams and only 30 against West teams.
There was likewise no consensus reached by committee members on tweaking the draft lottery. Grumblings about the current system have grown louder with Chicago (ninth-worst record in the league) and Portland (sixth-worst record in 2006-07) winning the past two lotteries, but Stern is said to be strongly against any lottery changes.
• As Stern promised earlier this month, changes were considered by the committee to the league's rules regarding intentional fouling away from the ball, which is more commonly known as the Hack-A-Shaq strategy.
Yet it appears that Hack-A-Shaq will be back next season, too.
Stern himself has said he doesn't like "the idea that [players can say], 'Hey, look at me, I'm going to hit this guy as soon as the ball goes into play, even though he's standing under the other basket.' "
San Antonio made extensive use of the Hack-A-Shaq tactic in its first-round series with Phoenix after Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had shunned the strategy for years. The Suns later conceded that the strategy not only took advantage of Shaquille O'Neal's poor foul shooting -- he missed half of his 64 free-throw attempts in the series -- but also frequently interrupted their offensive flow.
Such intentional fouling is legal until the final two minutes of regulation or any overtime, when intentional fouls result in one free throw and the team whose player was fouled retaining possession.
"We had a pretty spirited discussion on the subject and we talked prospectively about how we might change it," Jackson said, declining to elaborate on the potential alterations.
"But in the end, there wasn't enough support to change it. ... There was a feeling that by changing the rule you would be essentially rewarding a player for a lack of skill by allowing him to stay in the game."
• The committee had extensive discussions about expanding the use of instant replay for next season and voted to recommend a proposal which calls for the use of replay to assist referees in determining whether a basket or a shot on which a player is fouled is taken from behind the 3-point line.
The committee, as expected, is also backing the league's wish to use instant replay to resolve discrepancies on clock malfunctions, after a major clock issue during the Detroit-Orlando series in the second round.
The league was forced to admit earlier this month that a 3-pointer made by the Pistons' Chauncey Billups at the end of the third quarter of Game 2 against Orlando should not have counted. There were 5.1 seconds remaining in the quarter when the ball was inbounded, but the clock froze at 4.8 seconds as Billups dribbled into the frontcourt. The whole play actually consumed 5.7 seconds, meaning that the buzzer should have sounded before Billups' shot went up, but the play was not reviewable under current rules. Referees are presently allowed to use instant replay only to rule whether a shot goes in before the end-of-quarter clock expires.
"We still need to refine the procedures involved, but it's expected that Board of Governors will vote on those proposals [in October]," Jackson said.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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